Sheltering in place and COVID-19 lockdowns turned a lot of us into our own beauty and grooming glam squads. Some of it was good: mastering a manicure with your non-dominant hand. Some of it was bad: discovering the pains of maskne, and some of it (looking at you, DIY haircuts) was downright ugly. So while this added time at home left us with more time to play with new, more elaborate skincare routines, there are certain services we're happy to be rebooking with the professionals.
Last year, the thought of a stranger seeing our face (let alone touching it!) was a panicked thought. But now, we're excited to safely return to a world of treatments. To get ready for that first appointment back, we spoke with Los Angeles-based aesthetician Natalie Aguilar about what to do before and after a facial, including how to maintain your post-facial glow.
What Does a Facial Do?
Let’s start with the basics: why people get facials. According to Aguilar, “There are physical and mental benefits of a facial. A facial provides discipline to your skin, and they help cleanse, nourish, stimulate, rejuvenate, and bring a sense of calm to your mental state as well.” It’s also noteworthy that they can be beneficial for “all skin types, even sensitive skin.”
How Should You Pick a Facial?
“The first thing is to find a good facialist; I find that’s a main reason people hold back from regular facials,” says Aguilar. “If you don’t have someone you like, if you’re trying to find someone, I always recommend booking a consultation and interviewing them. Ask them what they would do with your skin and then assess from there who you were most comfortable with and who listened to your concerns best.”
Some spas and aestheticians will have facial menus that you can choose from. “A menu of facials is nice but remember that everyone has unique skin issues, concerns, and goals, and it’s important to have a facial tailored to what you’re hoping to achieve,” notes Aguilar. “Also, remember there is a difference in the goal of a facial at a hotel on vacation and a visit to your regular facialist at home. When the goal is to relax, hydrate the skin, and enjoy some pampering, you don’t need to be as picky.” If you’re unsure, she recommends you “pick the menu option that has the word custom or personalized in the title.”
How Can You Prep For a Facial?
Per Aguilar, “A week before, you want to make sure that you stop using chemical exfoliants and [potential] irritants such as retinol and salicylic acid.” She explains this is because most facials will include simple microdermabrasion or a manual scrub, and you don’t want to have irritated skin when your aesthetician exfoliates your skin. Additionally, scaling back your routine in this way can help your aesthetician by giving them a better “sense of what your skin looks like in a natural state,” which helps with understanding your skin’s needs.
On the day of the facial, something that may surprise you is Aguilar says you don’t need to cleanse beforehand. She encourages coming as “your usual self,” explaining, “Many facialists will find it helpful to see how much makeup you wear and if you’re wearing sunscreen.” She even has newscaster clients that “arrive with a full face of thick television makeup.”
What’s The Ideal Post-Facial Care Routine?
After a facial, it’s important to care for your skin properly. Aguliar shares she has an approach she calls "three days, three things." She says, “The idea behind this phrase is that in the three days following a facial, I recommend my clients only use three skincare products: cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen.”
The reasoning is that you don’t want to overwhelm your skin, even though, per Aguilar, “A lot of my clients feel motivated and excited to master a multi-step skincare routine after a facial.” She warns, “After a facial, which usually includes steam, extraction, and exfoliation, you don't want to aggravate your skin barrier. Remember that it's still healing post facial.” That’s why, “for three days, we use three things with the goal of pampering and nourishing the skin.”
Cleanser: “If your facial is in the morning, you'll want to wash your face in the evening to remove sunscreen and invisible environmental debris,” says Aguilar. “After an evening facial, you won't need to wash your face as long as you're not applying sunscreen or makeup. Unless instructed otherwise, you don't want to go more than six hours without washing your face.” When it is time to cleanse, we recommend Ultra Facial Cleanser. This gentle formula with squalane, avocado oil, and glycerin helps remove dirt and debris without stripping skin of essential moisture. It’s also dermatologist-tested and suitable for all skin types.
Moisturizer: Complement your cleanser with Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane. Our #1 facial moisturizing cream, also formulated with olive-derived squalane, has an ultra-lightweight texture for instant and lasting hydration. Skin is immediately left softer, smoother, and visibly healthier-looking.
Sunscreen: With advanced UVA/UVB technology and pollution protection, Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+ can help defend against UV rays, pollution, and free radicals. Our daily, non-comedogenic sunscreen also absorbs quickly and leaves skin with a matte finish.
As for makeup, Aguilar recommends “waiting at least two hours before applying makeup again. Something light is fine, but something like foundation could be too heavy and contaminate or clog the skin.” She also likes to give her clients this important piece of advice: Clean your makeup brushes the same day you get a facial for a fresh start.
What If You Get Blemishes After a Facial?
While this may not be what you want to hear, Aguilar confirms that blemishes can appear after a facial. If that does happen, “it’s best not to pick them.” She recommends putting your moisturizer in the refrigerator to “cool it off and, in turn, calm the blemish.” For more help, she also notes that you can reach out to your facialist for product and care recommendations.
To spot treat breakouts, we recommend the Blue Herbal Spot Treatment. With salicylic acid, this efficacious acne spot treatment helps reduce the appearance of blemishes and makes skin feel more comfortable.
How Often Should You Get a Facial?
There aren’t hard and fast rules about facial frequency, but Aguilar offers a few general guidelines. For maintenance, she says about every 35 to 45 days is an ideal schedule. However, “if your skin needs treatment, like someone with acne-prone skin, sometimes a facial is recommended weekly.”
How Can You Get a Post-Facial Glow At-Home?
Part of post-facial skincare is maintaining that fresh glow that gets everyone to ask what you’ve had done. Aguilar shares, “I do what I call ‘treatment days’ once a week. By this, I mean I add a special treatment to my skincare routine, typically a scrub and a mask or using a treatment device, like an LED light mask.” For exfoliation, she says, “One of my favorite scrubs is from Kiehl’s, and it is the Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion.” Formulated with micronized shells and willow herb, the efficacious scrub provides an instant skin-smoothing effect and helps visibly reduce fine lines and discolorations with regular use over time.
Next: Learn how to visibly reduce dark circles under the eyes.